City responds to 22nd Street station complaints

The city has come up with solutions to reduce nuisance activity and crime around 22nd Street SkyTrain station but is having difficulty implementing them due to TransLink resistance, says an area resident.

Back in June, Kris Taylor, who lives across the street from the station, went public with complaints of urination, defecation, drug dealing and outdoor parties surrounding the station.

Bylaw officer Veronika Metchie, in a report to council, suggested a port-a-potty could be put up until a longer-term solution could be found. She also wrote that fencing should be installed along the guideway underneath the tracks.

“The city did all the heavy lifting. TransLink, on the other hand, has been a bureaucratic nightmare,” said Taylor, who sat in on a recent meeting between Metchie and TransLink. “There was not a whole lot of will on TransLink’s part to do anything immediately. I was quite annoyed with the whole bathroom thing.”

The report notes TransLink policy is no washroom facilities at stations, which Metchie said may work in commercial areas, but 22nd Street is in the residential Connaught Heights neighbourhood. A portable washroom would be the quickest solution, but a longer-term one could be self-cleaning units similar to those being put up in Vancouver, or to have retail space with washroom facilities.

The report also suggests fencing be installed from the BC Hydro substation below the SkyTrain to 20th Street. That would cut off access to an area which New Westminster Police have identified as an area frequently used for consuming alcohol and drugs, sexual encounters, physical violence and access to homes for break-ins. To make it happen, however, requires cooperation from the city, TransLink and the Southern Railway of B.C. which holds the right-of-way rights for the dormant rail tracks underneath SkyTrain.

Metchie also suggests consideration should be given to converting the unused land for a positive use such as an area for taxis or passenger drop-off and pick-up.

According to the report, calls to police from the area have decreased by 30 per cent since 2006, and is lower than most SkyTrain stations. But she notes nuisance activity has a greater impact because it’s in a residential-only area.

“Determining who is responsible for various (security) aspects of the station is challenging,” wrote Metchie.
SkyTrain staff, transit police, TransLink Security and bus drivers all have a role, but it is New Westminster Police who respond when 911 is called.

“The residents also expressed frustration at what they perceive as being the watchdogs for the area,” wrote Metchie. “This responsibility may turn into complacency if they no longer wish to take on this role, especially if other stakeholders appear to not step up their involvement.”

“It’s a mess,” said Taylor, “and that’s what I was realizing when I had a variety of conversations ... that it was almost impossible to get an integrated security plan for the station. I would think it would be commonsense.”

Taylor said since New Westminster police started patrolling the area a lot of the loud and violent issues have subsided significantly, as has the recent demolition of a derelict building.

“They’ve eliminated the worst of the problems,” said Taylor. The report also suggests actions that could be taken to improve landscaping, reduce graffiti and upgrade maintenance of the area.

The city cleans up under the guideway at least three times a week, with 85 per cent of the litter being free newspapers distributed at the station. In addition to asking TransLink and the newspaper vendors to extend their cleanups, the report suggested signs and bins promoting recycling “may help to remind users of the area to be a ‘Good Neighbour’ to the surrounding community.”

The city said it will consult with local residents on possibly implementing programs such as Block Watch, pooch patrols, green streets, community gardens or adopt-a-boulevard.

Metchie wrote that TransLink would collaborate with the city in updating the community plan for the area and won’t consider any large design changes to the station prior to a new plan being developed.

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